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Award-Winning Performances for Coloring on the Floor and Stinkies in the Bathtub

Throughout the day, I hear a little voice repeating things he has been told.  It is a sobering reminder of the weight our words carry in the lives of those around us.  Many of the sentiments are sweet:
"Mama loves you.  Daddy loves you, too."
"Thank you, Josiah." (as he pretends to feed and water his Little People farm animals)
"I like football. I like friends."
"Daddy at work."
"I throw out!" (bringing something to the garbage)
"Keep up!" ("clean up", as he puts things away)
"Happy to you, happy to you, happy dear Jesus!" (Happy Birthday to Jesus)

Others are reminders of boundaries and expectations:

"No color floor.  No color wall." (the former was attempted once, and the latter warded off by a dramatically reenacted comparison)
"No stinkies in bathtub.  No stinkies on couch" (the former attempted once, the latter advisory prep for potty training)
"No kicking."
"No rip paper."

This rehearsal of the "rules" tugs at my heart.  While I am grateful that he often desires to do the right things (even when his emotions sometimes get in the way), I do not want him to feel his worth is tied to his performance.  This struck me, especially, during dinner last night after I sternly explained to him why acting out physically can hurt people (especially pregnant mamas).  I told him when we hurt someone we love, that person gets sad.  I also explained that saying we are sorry can make that person feel better.  He proceeded to say, "I sorry, Mama!" with a concerned look on his face, at least twenty times during dinner.  I kept telling him, "I love you.  I forgive you.  Don't worry."

I am a firstborn perfectionist.  I see much of my own tendencies in his behavior.  I want to please the people I love.  When I mess up, I feel I've ruined everything.  Sadly, this is often how I approach God.  I act as if my relationship with Him is a product of what I have (or have not) accomplished, rather than what Christ accomplished for me on the cross two millennia ago.  

The truths I want to model for my children are simple, but not easy:
We are not good.
Jesus is perfect.
Because of His sacrifice, we are judged not on our efforts, but on His perfection.
His love empowers us to build up, rather than tear down. 

Being a Christian is not about following all the rules so that God will accept us.  We don't need to make a long list of resolutions every January 1st.  We are loved, accepted, and redeemed -- not because of who we are, but despite who we are.  Even if we do color on the floor, go stinkies in the bathtub, kick others, or rip paper -- we are unconditionally, unarguably loved if we are children of God.  

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